Which of your marketing tactics has a possible ROI (return on investment) of around 43,000%?
Stumped? Well, this article’s headline kind of gives it away: it’s email marketing.
Yes, email: the often ignored and overlooked communication tactic that is in actuality one of the best ways for school marketers to create meaningful connections with current and prospective families.
Email marketing is a form of permission marketing—marketing that requires the recipient to give you their permission before you deliver your content—and that makes it much more effective than traditional ads or even social media connections.
When people expect to receive your messages in their email inbox, they are inviting you to start a conversation. But what you do with that invite is up to you.
Often, as marketers, we disregard the opportunities email marketing provides, and we take advantage of these connections by sending our subscribers emails that are irrelevant, or overcrowded, or just plain boring.
So how can we transform our school’s marketing emails into true conversation starters and community builders? Here are 5 tips for improving your school’s email marketing tactics:
#1: Know Your Audience.
Your school most likely has an online database filled with lots and lots of email addresses. (And there are lots to be had: email use worldwide is expected to top 3 billion users by 2020.)
But have you ever really thought about the individuals attached to those emails? If they were in the same room with you, would they all be interested in the exact same message? Probably not.
Some people (current families) would be interested in the daily happenings of your school. Some (prospective families) would be interested in school details, or frequently asked questions, or upcoming events. Others (alumni) would like a highlight reel, and to feel a nostalgic connection with their alma mater. And still others (donors, media and more) want more specific, targeted information that focuses on their needs and concerns.
Knowing to whom you are sending your email communications is a critical first step in creating an effective email marketing strategy.
By creating audience segments, and addressing each audience’s unique needs in your strategy and planning, you can ensure that you keep relevant conversations going with each key group all year long.
#2: Keep Content Audience-Focused.
Once you know who your audience is, you need to make sure that you are always keeping their interests and needs at the forefront of your email marketing strategy.
This means putting deep thought into the email content you create. When trying to break through the clutter of someone’s email inbox, you cannot simply bombard them with the information YOU want them to know.
Whenever you have the urge to send out an email, first ask yourself: “What’s in it for the recipient? Why would they care about this information?”
When you know that answer, lead with that information. For example, if you want to share information about an upcoming school event, ask yourself: “Why should families attend?” Don’t lead with the fact that an event is happening—lead with the what’s-in-it-for-me outcome.
This goes for both current and prospective family emails:
- Current families want to know how new school updates, or school happenings, impact or affect their children and their family.
- Prospective families want to know the outcomes or benefit of the information you are providing. They also want clear next steps to take, so make sure to be clear about your expectations.
Email shouldn’t be used to report information to recipients. It should be used to engage recipients. So always take the next step to bridge the news to the outcome for your audience.
#3: Don’t Overwhelm the Reader.
I have seen way too many school e-newsletters that scroll on for screens and screens, filled with information and stories and calendar dates and calls-to-action … that hardly anyone will read.
Why? Because it’s information overload.
Think about it: outside of work, Americans most commonly check their email while watching TV (70%), from bed (52%), on vacation (50%), while on the phone (43%), from the bathroom (42%), and even while driving (18%).
This means that your email is not their main focus, or priority, at any given time. By including every piece of information in one school newsletter, you’re doing your audience a disservice: they might miss something important, or might not learn about something they’re really interested in.
Instead of creating one catch-all e-newsletter, consider developing different types of email correspondences—one for school-wide news, one for updates or action steps, one for grade-specific information. And keep each type of email short and to the point, as we’ll get into in the next tip.
The key: don’t make your audience work so hard to get the information you want them to get. Make it easy—and enjoyable—for them to learn from you.
#4: Fix Your Format.
Two-thirds of emails are read on either smartphones or tablets, which means that the days of having an e-newsletter formatted to look like an actual print newsletter are over.
Your emails need to be mobile-friendly FIRST. That’s the format that matters. And mobile-friendly means that you have less imagery, more short-and-sweet content, and strong calls-to-action. (In fact, the more images in an email, the less likely someone is to click through for more information.)
Remember: you don’t need to include it ALL in your emails. Include enough information to make the content relevant to the reader, and then prompt them to click through to an article, or a website page, or a blog post, or some other call-to-action to learn more.
Your email should be the start of a conversation with the recipient. So skinny it down, give them only what they want, and prompt them to come back to you for more.
#5: Test, Test, Test.
Not sure if any of these tips will work for your school? Think your audience currently likes the email content you’re sending out? Still not convinced any of these changes will increase your email marketing effectiveness?
Test them out.
The next time you send out an enewsletter, do some A/B testing. A/B testing, as defined by Wikipedia, is a way to compare two versions of a single variable by testing a subject's response to variable A against variable B, and determining which of the two variables is more effective.
By randomly sending some recipients one version of your email, and others a newer email concept, you can see which format gets the most opens and click-throughs, informing your long-term strategy.
You can also ask your audience how they like getting their information. Create a brief survey, and ask your audience to share their thoughts on your current email format and information.
By testing your email content, you can ensure that your content creation efforts aren’t simply being sent to Trash.
About the Author
Emily Cretella is a marketing strategist and copywriter who helps her clients create and share stories that make audiences take action. As owner of Cursive Content Marketing, Emily provides consulting, copywriting services and workshops to independent schools and higher education. Read her stories at cursivecontent.com.Follow on Twitter More Content by Emily Cretella